Spotlight on The Sciences Teaching Club-Department of Biological Sciences - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spotlight on The Sciences Teaching Club

The Sciences Teaching Club Officers (left to right): Jeanne Morin-Leisk, Melissa Witzberger,Ken Hovis and Corey Flynn.
The Sciences Teaching Club Officers (left to right): Jeanne Morin-Leisk, Melissa Witzberger,Ken Hovis and Corey Flynn.

With its expanding list of activities, the Sciences Teaching Club in Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Biological Sciences is providing an important and increasingly sought-after service to graduate students. The club’s mission is simple; they want to offer graduate students, particularly those within science fields, more opportunities to prepare for a future career involving teaching.

One year ago, a few graduate students saw a void in programs to prepare graduate students for positions as higher education science educators. Four students within the Ph.D. in Biological Sciences program, Melissa Witzberger, Ken Hovis, Jeanne Blain Morin-Leisk and Corey Flynn, were particularly influential in identifying this void and developing the club.  “The idea wasn’t originally to start a club,” Hovis stated, “it was just [to determine] what opportunities we could give to students to gain more teaching experience. The idea just kind of grew.”

Today the group works closely with the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence, a group at Carnegie Mellon that awards participating students documentation of teaching experience through training sessions and seminars. Students within the Sciences Teaching Club are encouraged to work toward this documentation. 

Unlike the Eberly Center, the Sciences Teaching Club focuses on the niche of teaching within science fields by holding their own seminar series with talks geared towards a science audience. Within the Spring 2008 semester, the group has already hosted three seminars covering topics such as HHMI Professorship, faculty recruiting, and hiring. The club’s final seminar of the semester will be held this Friday, April 25.  Dr. Karen Greif from Bryn Mawr College will be talking on “Small science? The facts and myths about science careers in liberal arts colleges.”  More specifically, she will discuss:

•    Liberal arts colleges: What are their features? 
•    Preparing for a career in a liberal arts college 
•    What search committees look for 
•    The interview 
•    Funding your research: Special opportunities 
•    Life at a liberal arts college 

In addition to the seminar series, the Sciences Teaching Club is involved in numerous outreach programs.  On April 4, five members served as judges for the Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair for students in grades 6-12 held at Heinz Field. They also plan to hold a microteaching workshop this summer and enlist support from the Eberly Center. In June, the club’s president, Witzberger, and vice-president, Hovis, will attend the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) 2008 Forum, where they plan to present a poster on Carnegie Mellon’s Science Teaching Club.

In the future, the group hopes to continue such outreach activities by volunteering at Carnegie Natural History Museum, hosting more pedagogy seminars and serving as a discussion forum for its members.  The club is also moving towards involving all Mellon College of Science programs and Biomedical Engineering students in their activities and is in the process of becoming a university-recognized club.

Visit to view the upcoming events of this expanding organization.